American Goldfinch

Spinus tristis
American Goldfinch specimens on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

A small (5 inches) finch, the male American Goldfinch in summer is most easily identified by its bright yellow body; black cap, wings, and tail; and conspicuous white rump patch. Female American Goldfinches are duller yellow overall than males, and lack black on the head. In winter, both sexes become duller yellow-brown on the back, head, and breast. The American Goldfinch breeds across much of the United States and southern Canada. In winter, northerly-breeding populations move south, expanding outside of this species’ breeding range into the coastal southeast, the southwest, northern Mexico, and the coast of California and Oregon. Birds breeding in the mid-latitudes migrate short distances, if at all. American Goldfinches breed in a variety of open habitats, including meadows, bushy fields, and (in modern times) urban and suburban yards. This species utilizes similar types of habitat in winter as it does in summer. American Goldfinches primarily eat seeds, including tree seeds and seeds of weedy groundcover plants. In appropriate habitat, American Goldfinches may be seen perched on the stalks of small plants while eating seeds from pods at the top. Goldfinches are also common feeder birds, and may be observed feeding in mixed groups of finches and other small songbirds. American Goldfinches are primarily active during the day.

DC Information

Common permanent resident. Nests late, from late July to early October, in fields and along roadsides. The male is yellow and black only in the breeding season, otherwise olive like the female.

Specimen Information

The exhibit includes four birds; this entry is for the bright yellow male in the upper center area of the image.
Date:  4/24/1889
Collected By:  CW Richmond
Locality:  Washington, DC
Sex:  Male
Catalog ID:  122331

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Sound from xeno-canto. XC16918 Carduelis tristis (American Goldfinch)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC16919 Carduelis tristis (American Goldfinch)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC17119 Carduelis tristis (American Goldfinch)